1
Introduction

Approximately 32.8 million persons of Hispanic descent live in the United States, half of whom were born outside the United States (Therrien and Ramirez, 2000). By the year 2050, it is expected that Hispanics will constitute more than 25 percent of the total U.S. population and approximately 15 percent of the U.S. labor force. These estimates and the fact that 90 percent of Hispanic American men and 60 percent of Hispanic American women participate in the U.S. workforce strongly suggest a need for occupational safety and health information in Spanish.

According to the National Immigration Forum, in 1990 more than 40 percent of new immigrants in the United States reported that they did not speak English “well.” This statistic dropped below 25 percent for the immigrant populations who have lived in the United States for 10 years (Rodriguez, 1999). The 2000 Census reported that 27.3 percent of Hispanics, 25 years and older, had less than a 9th grade education (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a). Educational attainment in 1994 of Hispanics of Mexican descent was significantly less than non-Hispanic whites. For a population of 25 years and older, 33 percent of Mexican born Hispanics in the United States had less than a 9th grade education, compared to 4.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites (U.S. Bureau of Census, 2001b). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000, work-related fatalities of U.S. Hispanic workers increased by 12 percent overall; in construction the increase was more than 24 percent. Since 1992, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began accumulating statistics on Hispanic workers, work-related fatalities in this group has increased more than 50 percent.

The growing presence of Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States and the unprecedented 12-percent increase in the overall rate of workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers in 2000 highlights the need to better communicate occupational safety and health information in Spanish to both employees and employers. To address this need the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is preparing a strategy for developing and disseminating Spanish-language occupational safety and health educational and technical material. To gather information necessary to create this strategic plan the National Research Council (NRC) was asked to host a workshop to:

  1. identify the most pressing occupational safety and health issues faced by Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States;

  2. examine how NIOSH can best meet the informational needs of the occupational safety and health community to address effectively the safety and health issues faced by Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States; and

  3. identify potential partnerships for NIOSH in reaching Spanish-speaking workers, their employers, and others.

To address the charge, the NRC established the Committee on Communicating Occupational Safety and Health Information to Spanish-Speaking Workers and Employers in the United States to undertake this study. The committee consists of four experts from academia, industry, and labor with expertise in construction and building, industrial safety and health,



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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary 1 Introduction Approximately 32.8 million persons of Hispanic descent live in the United States, half of whom were born outside the United States (Therrien and Ramirez, 2000). By the year 2050, it is expected that Hispanics will constitute more than 25 percent of the total U.S. population and approximately 15 percent of the U.S. labor force. These estimates and the fact that 90 percent of Hispanic American men and 60 percent of Hispanic American women participate in the U.S. workforce strongly suggest a need for occupational safety and health information in Spanish. According to the National Immigration Forum, in 1990 more than 40 percent of new immigrants in the United States reported that they did not speak English “well.” This statistic dropped below 25 percent for the immigrant populations who have lived in the United States for 10 years (Rodriguez, 1999). The 2000 Census reported that 27.3 percent of Hispanics, 25 years and older, had less than a 9th grade education (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a). Educational attainment in 1994 of Hispanics of Mexican descent was significantly less than non-Hispanic whites. For a population of 25 years and older, 33 percent of Mexican born Hispanics in the United States had less than a 9th grade education, compared to 4.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites (U.S. Bureau of Census, 2001b). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000, work-related fatalities of U.S. Hispanic workers increased by 12 percent overall; in construction the increase was more than 24 percent. Since 1992, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began accumulating statistics on Hispanic workers, work-related fatalities in this group has increased more than 50 percent. The growing presence of Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States and the unprecedented 12-percent increase in the overall rate of workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers in 2000 highlights the need to better communicate occupational safety and health information in Spanish to both employees and employers. To address this need the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is preparing a strategy for developing and disseminating Spanish-language occupational safety and health educational and technical material. To gather information necessary to create this strategic plan the National Research Council (NRC) was asked to host a workshop to: identify the most pressing occupational safety and health issues faced by Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States; examine how NIOSH can best meet the informational needs of the occupational safety and health community to address effectively the safety and health issues faced by Spanish-speaking workers and employers in the United States; and identify potential partnerships for NIOSH in reaching Spanish-speaking workers, their employers, and others. To address the charge, the NRC established the Committee on Communicating Occupational Safety and Health Information to Spanish-Speaking Workers and Employers in the United States to undertake this study. The committee consists of four experts from academia, industry, and labor with expertise in construction and building, industrial safety and health,

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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary occupational health education, mine safety and agriculture. Brief biographies of the committee members appear in Appendix A. The committee commissioned five white papers (see Appendices D-H) and organized a workshop on May 29–30, in San Diego, California. The white papers were intended to set the stage for the workshop, and do not necessarily represent the views of the committee or the NRC. The workshop included participants from industry, academia, community organizations, and government with expertise in health and safety aspects of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and service organizations (see Appendix B). The white paper authors made presentations and these were followed by discussion among the participants (see Appendix C). This workshop summary is a synopsis of the presentations and discussions at the workshop. It does not contain any conclusions and recommendations. The conclusions and recommendations in the white papers represent the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the committee or the NRC. It is intended as input to the NIOSH strategic planning in this area. Chapter 2 discusses the available information and identifies information gaps regarding risks and adverse events for Latino workers. Chapter 3 examines the available health and safety training resource materials for Latino workers, especially for those with little or no English capabilities; in particular, it discusses issues of the linguistic and cultural appropriateness of materials. Chapter 4 considers issues surrounding the assessment of existing materials and the development of new materials. Chapter 5 discusses the various means of conveying information to Spanish-speaking workers, again focusing on cultural appropriateness and ways of maximizing understanding. Chapter 6 summarizes the discussion in the prior chapters and presents some overarching issues raised by the workshop attendees. Workshop participants agreed that the highest priority for efforts to improve safety and health for this population should be on communication with Spanish workers who speak, read, and understand little or no English. Within this category there are differences in vocabulary by country of origin and differences in dialect within the country of origin. Some of these differences may extend to terms important for worker safety, such as names of equipment or tools. Some of the efforts to develop language-appropriate safety communications will need to take this into account. As will be discussed later, cultural variations in perceptions of risk and the need for protection are also important, as is the use of culturally appropriate ways to communicate safety information.